Erased

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I want to state right up front that the story I’m about to share does not compare to the erasure that many people, especially minorities, feel due to the lack of representation, be it in media, politics, career paths, etc. This is a small sliver that gets me a little closer to understanding how that feels, but is not comparable in terms of the systemic harm and degradation far too many other people face.

If any of you have been reading the last few blog entries, you’ll know that during the Covid-19 pandemic I’ve felt very gaslit by the majority of my family whom I live with. It felt like I was the only one taking the pandemic and the recommended precautions seriously, that all of my concerns were hand-waved away, and while they would comment on my increasing distress and depression, no real steps were actually made to ease that state of affairs. This has led to a great deal of strain and a has taken a severe toll on my mental health.

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Mini-Achievement

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So, I actually had a semi-productive day yesterday! I wrote an article for the online magazine Fellowship and Fairydust, which will be released with their Spring 2021 installment, and I started rewriting my short story “The Undead Midwife” over from scratch. I’d only gotten a little ways into it the last time I tried to start, but it didn’t feel right. But after taking a walk and actually allowing myself to think rather than be distracted, I realized that I needed to write it from the midwife’s POV in first person. It isn’t done, but I at least started on it and was able to maintain focus for longer than a few minutes, which is a massive achievement these days. The rest of the day was spent giving my kitties lots of cuddles while lounging in the sunlight with the windows open, enjoying the breeze and the smell of spring. Hooray for mini-achievements!

Today, of course, is grey and cold and pretty much all the creative energy I had yesterday is gone. (But I did clean my bathroom, a major chore I’d been putting off for far too long.) This last week or so I’ve been strangely drawn to horror, a genre that I am not usually very fond of. But to date I’ve reread the story “SCP-087”, watched Markiplier play through both versions of the video game based on that story on his YouTube channel (SCP-087 and SCP-087-B), and rewatched both Alien and Aliens. I’ve also been eyeing the game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but can’t justify spending $80-200 on a video game that I probably will only play once. (I might just watch a playthrough instead.) So yeah, I don’t know what that’s all about. I prefer more subtle, psychological horror than gore-fests, so things like Hitchcock films and The Twilight Zone appeal to me far more than the majority of the modern horror genre. Maybe I’ll read some Lovecraft next…

I’m still struggling with what to do with The Cat’s Cradle. I’ve been writing this blog faithfully for ten years now with little to no engagement and I feel like I’m running out of things to talk about, especially since I haven’t been, like, writing. And it seems like the entries that I spend a lot of time time that delve into deeper topics get no engagement at all, while fluff updates like this one get far more attention. I don’t really know how to feel about this. On the one hand, I suppose entries like these are more personal, perhaps connecting better with people. But it feels pointless and self-indulgent to whine all the time about “poor me, look at me not writing, boo hoo hoo.” It makes me feel disgusted with myself for not having something more substantial to say. At the same time, it also feels like I’m a failure if I just… stop.

So, at the moment, I’m leaning towards the idea of having The Cat’s Cradle go on hiatus after June 2021 and only post when I have an actual writing update on my novels or short stories or whatever else it is I’m working on. The Cat’s Cradle will become more like Second Unit Reviews, which I only post on when I have something I want to write about. Maybe if I get my mojo back, I’ll be more enthusiastic about the blog and return to the bi-weekly schedule. And I can always use the time off from writing new entries to make Audio Editions of the old ones. But after doing it regularly for ten years, I think I’m due for a break and reevaluation of where my time and attention should be focused.

If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

“I Left Because…” How Fantasy Helped Me Become an Atheist

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A few weeks ago, I listened to an episode of The Thinking Atheist podcast hosted by Seth Andrews with Dr. Chrissy Stroop called “I Left Because…” It was a call-in show where people shared their stories about why and how they left organized religion to become atheists. Some were dramatic, but the majority were comprised of gradually drifting away as they learned more about about the religion itself and the world around them. My own deconversion was likewise a gradual process as I realized how little sense religious doctrine made. I went from being Christian (specifically Lutheran Protestant) to Deism (the clockmaker god), flirted briefly with Wicca and paganism, stayed agnostic for a while, and finally embraced the label of atheist and humanist (in part to help destigmatize the word “atheist” and to help show that you can be “good without god.”)

However, when I was telling this to a friend, I told them that I stopped being Wiccan because it was so anti-climactic compared to the fantasy novels I was used to reading. My friend expressed surprise that fantasy actually helped me leave religion rather than encouraging me to stay, since magical thinking is required to accept a lot of religious tenants. I hadn’t actually thought about this and decided to examine this idea further.

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Glimmers

Sorry for the long silence on The Cat’s Cradle. It’s been really hard to do anything even remotely creative and the months of February and March are both long and tedious. Winter draws fitfully to a close while Spring teases and flirts with us, giving tantalizing glimpses of warmth and sunlight.

I’ve been on new antidepressants for about two weeks now. So far no major side effects aside from a little nausea the first few days. But in those two weeks it’s been warm enough for me to take some limited walks, and I’ve actually managed to establish a morning routine. It doesn’t include writing yet, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Provided this horrific ritual of Daylight Savings Time doesn’t blow it all to hell, which it felt like today. (My internal clock and circadian rhythm are very sensitive to time changes and DST messes me up for at least a week, whether it’s “adding” and hour or “taking” one away.) Seriously, this is the dumbest, most useless ritual ever that does no good and a great deal of harm… SO WHY ARE WE STILL DOING IT?! (Fortunately, there seems to be increasing support to make DST permanent so we wouldn’t have to change our clocks back in the fall and then forward again in the spring.)

So, routine. I kind of have one, at least for the morning. I’m actually getting out of bed rather than collapsing back into it after feeding the cats. I’m getting basic chores done a little more regularly, although most of those hadn’t slipped too badly thanks to my reliance on listening to podcasts, YouTube videos, and audiobooks to get through the day. I’ve been reading at least one book a week, usually two, and established a nice Sunday tradition of Tea Time with a Candle, Beverage, and Book, which you can see on my Twitter feed if you’re interested. Sundays are my super-chillax day, so nothing gets done and I do my best not to feel guilty about it and remind myself that self-care is not selfish.

While I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch new movies or TV shows (even ones that I do want to see), I have been playing through Diablo III: Reaper of Souls as the female Monk. (I’ve already beaten it as the female Wizard, but after seeing the trailer for Diablo II: Resurrected, in addition to the announcement of Diablo IV, I really wanted to play.) There’s something very therapeutic and cathartic about punching demons to death with your fists.

Part of me desperately wants to be writing right now, but a far larger part of me is either too scared or too depressed to make the attempt. I’ll still try to poke at projects and do a little work on things, but it’s sporadic and probably will be for a while. I don’t like it, but that is my current reality and it will take small, cumulative changes and improvements to become creative and productive again.

Almost 12 Months Into COVID-19

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Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko from Pexels

In mid-February 2020, the community room at the library was festooned in red and yellow for our Chinese New Year event. There were crafts like paper lanterns and koi kites, games like Majong and Chinese checkers, traditional lunar new year treats like sunflower seeds and dates. There was even a calligraphy set for the kids to practice with. It was one of our biggest and most successful library events, and the first of many fun activities we had planned.

I had no idea it would be our last in-person library event for over a year.

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Broken Record

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As Winter Storm Orlena sweeps through the northwest, I am comfortably ensconced in my library, watching the snow come down, with a stack of books from the James Asher series by Barbara Hambly beside me.

Since my last post, I have gotten even less done than the little I had managed to do before. Each week my living quarters dissolves into a chaos of dirty clothes and scattered papers. I spend the weekend putting myself back together only to repeat the process next week. This weekend in particular I spent mostly sleeping and haven’t even managed to get those basic tasks done. I feel like each week I need an additional week to recover, and I’m not sure how to break out of this insidious cycle.

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Derailed & Despondent But Not Deterred

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Soooo…. remember my post “Making Things Happen” from two weeks ago? Yeah, I’ve already been derailed. Kind of. I’ve been working on the Faylinn organization and upload to World Anvil, although it hasn’t been as regular. I’ve been lifting my weights, although that too has not been regular.

But honestly, right now, I’m an emotional wreck.

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Making Things Happen

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

While the New Year gives us a measurable marker for change and the passing of time, it doesn’t fundamentally mean anything. The calendar may have changed, but we have not. I’ve overloaded myself before with grandiose plans and meticulous lists that end up crushing me and coming to naught. That’s pretty depressing and I really don’t need any more of that right now. With the pandemic and unsettled political climate still raging, I can’t expect the chronic, low-level stress and anxiety to go away with the turn of a page.

I need a plan.

But I am also very bad at planning.

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2020: The Year in Review

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So. Here we are. It seems appropriate that my final Cat’s Cradle entry for 2020 falls on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and on the day of the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. Pretty epic, right?

Like most people, 2020 has not been a particularly good year. Mine has been filled with relatively minor annoyances and constant low-level anxiety, so I’m not comparing it to the true horrors that far less privileged folk have faced. I’ve had it easier than many, but that does not mean it was easy. I learned a few things I wish I hadn’t. The level of physical and mental decay that I’ve sunk to came into stark relief. And my creativity and focus pretty much collapsed into a black hole.

The bright side is that I think I can crawl back out of it. It’s hard to make changes when you have no energy. It’s hard to plan for a future when you aren’t convinced that you’re going to have one. But there is still a small spark of resistance guttering somewhere inside me and with a few well-placed twigs and kindling, I may get it started again.

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NaNoWriMo 2020 Recap

So, if any of you read my last Cat’s Cradle entry “Writing During Covid-19” or follow me on the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge blog, you’ll already know that National Novel Writing Month did not go very well for me this year due to a variety of factors. However, I did finish with 40,000 words out of my 50,000 word count goal, and the majority of it did stay on topic. Many thanks to everyone who followed along with me, giving likes, comments, and encouragement!

Also, there was something kind of fun that I did want to share in the aftermath:

I work in a public library, and because of the pandemic, all of our programs are currently virtual. For November I ran a series of NaNo writing events on our Facebook page, and while I got almost no engagement on the posts, it was something that I did keep up with every day during the month. Our library Facebook page is changing soon, so I wanted to preserve those posts and their pictures here for posterity. (Note that “LTN” is an abbreviation for my library, so “LTNWrimos” refers to folks from my library who are participating.) All pictures that are not personal photographs came from either Pinterest or the National Novel Writing Month Pep Talks.

Enjoy!

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